Parks & Game Reserwes

The Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area

The Valley of the Baboons in the Eastern Cape Province (in the sandy soil of this valley one can easily spot their footprints), also known as the Baviaanskloof Wilderness, is a rugged, uncultivated, and beautiful wilderness area that includes the Baviaanskloof and Kouga Mountains, and the valley in-between, less than three hours from Port Elizabeth.

Recognised as a World Heritage Site in 2004, the 180 000 hectare conservation area is South Africa’s third largest, following closely on the heels of the Kruger National Park and the Kalahari. What looks like a relatively simple route through the valley is, however, utterly deceptive.

The Baviaanskloof Wilderness is wild with difficult access and numerous river crossings. There is a dearth of human intervention and an immense feeling of space, despite the gorge. The sometimes narrow track of road that follows dry river beds takes one through some unbelievably breathtaking mountain passes, rock formations, indigenous forest and mountain streams.

It is thus not unusual to see signs saying “Danger, narrow road and sharp curves ahead” and it is probably best to attempt the route in a 4×4 vehicle, but the reward of being able to experience nature as intended, in an area that promises to remain unspoilt because of this difficult passage, makes the journey, that will probably take the better part of a day, all the more worthwhile.

The incredible scenery does not have to be viewed from the confines of your vehicle, however. There is ample opportunity to hike, bird watch, mountain climb and spot flowers. Mountain streams provide warm water pools for swimming and San rock art in the area is well worth viewing..

Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve

With its World Heritage Site Status, the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve is home to the biggest wilderness area in the country and is also one of the eight protected areas of the Cape Floristic Region.

The Baviaanskloof Mega-Reserve covers 200km of unspoiled, rugged mountainous terrain with spectacular landscapes hosting more than a thousand different plant species, including the Erica and Protea families and species of ancient cycads.

Seven of South Africa’s eight biomes are represented within the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve – Fynbos, Forest, Grassland, Succulent Karoo, Nama-Karoo, Subtropical Thicket and Savanna.

This magnificent reserve is a must-see for all nature and adventure enthusiasts.

Geology & History

The landscape of the area is dominated by the Kouga- and Baviaanskloof Mountains, which run parallel to each other in an east west orientation. These are part of the Cape Folded Mountains The Kouga range is the larger of the two. Many high peaks occur in the western and central parts of this range while the eastern end is less rugged with plateau’s and hills generally less than 900m in altitude. Smutsberg is the highest peak at 1757m above sea level. The Baviaanskloof Mountains form a long narrow range with Scholtzberg at 1625m being the highest peak. In the east the Baviaanskloof Mountains join the Groot Winterhoek range with Cockscomb being the highest peak, and at I 768m above sea level, the highest peak in the wilderness area.

Two main rivers drain the area, namely the Baviaanskloof- and Kouga River. They converge at Smitskraal from where they flow in an easterly direction to the Kouga dam. The Grootrivier drain the Karoo and flows through the reserve near Komdomo. The Witrivier which has its origins within the reserve joins this.

Although the “modern” Baviaanskloof is about 20 million years old, its precursor dates back 140 million years ago to the break-up of the continents when a major tensional fault formed along what later became known as the Baviaanskloof. Erosion, together with repeated subsidence and upliftment events have over the course of millions of years created the landscape one views today. Contrasting with the steep rugged gorges and mountain slopes are some remarkably flat plateau’s at an altitude of 650-900m. These are part of what is known as the African Land Surface, an old “mature” land surface which can be found over large parts of sub-Saharan Africa. The Table Mountain formations upon which this surface lies are hard and resistant to erosion with the result that the African Land Surface is well preserved within the BWA.

Quartzitic sandstones of the Table Mountain Group dominate the landscape as a whole. All formations belonging to this group can be found in the area, and of these, the Peninsula Sandstone Goudini Sandstones and Cedarberg shales are predominant.

Formations:

Peninsula Sandstone – the oldest formation which usually dominates at higher altitudes and the peaks.

Cedarberg Shale – it separates the Peninsula from the Goudini formation with a 10-40m wide bar and is usually associated with lower lying necks and saddles.

Goudini Sandstone – is generally brown in colour and can often be recognised by the numerous shallow caves in the cliffs.

Skurweberg Sandstone – is associated with the Cockscomb and most of the higher peaks of the Baviaanskloof range.

Sardinia Bay – is mixed with phyllitic shales and small-pebble conglomerate. It can be seen at low altitudes at the eastern end of the Baviaanskloof range.

Baviaanskloof – is dark in colour and, along with the Sardinia Bay formation, is relatively uncommon.

A number of other formations are present but are insubordinate in the landscape. Noteworthy one~ include the Grahamstown Formation which can be found on the flat plateau surfaces and has been termed the African Land surface, and the Enon Conglomerate Formation, a red formation which erodes into dramatic shapes. The only exposed granite formation in the Eastern Cape (as depicted on geological survey maps) occurs within the BWA.

HISTORY

The Baviaanskloof (Valley of Baboons) was once home to San hunter-gatherers and early 18th century settlers, who progressed from hunter to nomadic pasturalist, to a more permanent lifestyle based on agriculture.

The area was once important for the cultivation of pure vegetable seed (onion, carrot, beet root and pumpkin), the mountainous isolation preventing contamination of seed stock. Goats were farmed for the angora goat industry and together with seed production, represented a viable industry.

From the 1920’s it has been managed by The Department of Nature Conservation. Large parts have always been State or “Crown” lands. The construction of the Kouga Dam (or Paul Sauer Dam as it was then known) in the 1960’s and early 1970’s led to much land being bought out and transferred to the Department of Forestry. in 1987 the management of the area was transferred to Cape Nature Conservation and more land was bought out with private funds for the consolidation of the area. Since 1994 it has been managed by Eastern Cape Nature Conservation.

The Amalinda Nature Reserve

The Amalinda Nature Reserve was established in 1968 and consists of 134 hectares of land surrounding the Amalinda Reservoir. The reserve will become one of the most important birding spots in the East London area as it will remain a sanctuary in the middle of ongoing development. Apart from the birding, there are also a number of mammals to be seen which include Common Reedbuck, Eland, Blesbok and Zebra. During a visit of between 2 to 3 hours you can expect to see an average of 60 bird species. The total bird species count for the reserve is 175.

Specials

Specials include Olive Bush-Shrike and Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, (See if you can distinguish the difference in the two species calls.) Red-throated Wryneck in the parking area below the dam, Chorister Robin-Chat and Red-capped Robin-Chat, as well as Marsh Warbler in the summer months. A look in the vegetation surrounding the dam may also produce Malachite Kingfisher. Look also on the old fish holding dams for a possible sighting of White-backed Duck and African Jacana. African Pied Wagtail is regularly seen in the vicinity of the dam wall.

Habitats

The reserve consists of coastal forest and thornveld. The veld is characterised by grass covered slopes with scattered clumps of shrubs and trees and dense forest along the valley floors. A large reservoir features in the centre of the reserve, which is fed by several small streams.

Facilities

The facilities in the reserve are basic, but allow for a picnic or similar in the parking area below the dam. A bird hide is to be constructed in November 1997. It is possible to walk through the whole of the reserve that should not take more than one full morning if birding as well as walking. Roads are established around the perimeter fence and through the reserve. To get there, head out from East London on the N2 towards King Williams Town. Just outside of East London take the off ramp to Amalinda main road and turn left. Watch out for the reserve sign on the right just after passing the sports field then take the right turn. Turn right onto the dirt road just before the McClelland School that then leads you into the reserve. The reserve is open permanently, but entry onto the reserve is by foot only. Any enquiries can be directed to Eastern Cape Nature Conservation at telephone number +27 43 635 2115 Eastern Cape Parks Website

Birding

The Amalinda Reservoir will produce Yellow-billed Duck, Red-billed Teal. The reeds at the opposite ends of the reservoir will have both Lesser Swamp-Warbler and Little Rush-Warbler calling from them. These areas will also produce Levaillant’s Cisticola and Blacksmith Lapwing. Reed Cormorant are very common along with African Darter. White-faced Duck are seen occasionally. The thornveld surrounding the dam contains Chinspot Batis, Helmeted Guineafowl, and Marsh Warbler. Look for Chorister Robin-Chat and Red-capped Robin-Chat in the forested areas and Cape Longclaw, Plain-backed Pipit and African Pipit on the grassy slopes to the right of the dam wall. This area is also full of LBJ’s in the form of Tawny-flanked Prinia, Lazy Cisticola and Wailing Cisticola. Watch out also for Crowned Lapwing and African Quailfinch. When in flower, the Aloe’s on the entrance road will produce Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Amethyst Sunbird and Collared Sunbird. Although more difficult, Olive Sunbird and Grey Sunbird occasionally make an appearance. Giant Kingfisher is usually observed perching on the power lines in the reserve office area. A Forest Buzzard has been around in recent years and there are occasional sightings of African Fish-Eagle.

The Amakhala Game Reserve

Amakhala Game Reserve is a privately owned game reserve located in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. Established in 2011, for the purpose of re-introducing animals to the area where they once roamed freely and contributing to the conservation of South African heritage. The land mass is approximately 7,500 ha, and consists of eleven individual lodges.

History

In 1999, the reserve began as a joint conservation venture between the owners of six lodges who were direct descendants of the original Frontier settlers about five generations ago. They arrived in South Africa with the British settlers of 1820. The families originally settled to farm sheep and cattle. Due to unfavourable conditions, the use of the land for agricultural purposes was reconsidered. In 2011, the original members of the Amakhala and Lion Roars Group decided to convert their land into a game reserve. The members created a joint marketing agreement and brand rejuvenation for the Amakhala Game Reserve. The joint marketing agreement now, consists of eleven properties within the reserve that all fall under a unified marketing umbrella and brand of ‘Amakhala Game Reserve’.

Location

The reserve is situated in the Greater Addo and Frontier Country area of the Eastern Cape Province. About 90 km north east of the city Port Elizabeth.

Environment

Amakhala Game Reserve- Woodbury Tented Camp

Area is semi-arid, with an annual rainfall range of 380-570mm.

The mean summer minimum and maximum temperatures range from 16-30 °C respectively.

The mean winter minimum and maximum temperatures range from 5-22 °C respectively.

Amakhala’s previous history of goat farming on degraded land, has transformed the area to open grasslands with patches of thicket and Pteronia incana invasion. This, coupled with the destructive feeding habits of game animals, such as elephants and rhinoceros, has significantly reduced thicket biomass and C reserves, possibly leading to a reduced soil respiration potential.

Flora and fauna

African elephant

Inhabited by lion, elephant, white rhinoceros, cape buffalo, giraffe, burchell zebra, wildebeest and antelope species. As well as, cheetah, buffalo, rhinoceros, and over 16 species of antelope.

It is composed of savanna, Albany thicket, grassland and karoo vegetation.

The long history of livestock farming has transformed the area to open grasslands, with patches of ticket and blue bush (Pteronia incana) invasion on most of its degraded land.

Intact thickets consist of woody trees Euclea undulata and Schotia afra, multi-stemmed woody shrubs Rhus longispina, Sideroxylon inerme, Gymnosporia species, Carissa haematocarpa, Azima tetracantha and the succulent shrub Portulacaria afra.

Understory contained various succulent herbs and forbs.

The degraded thicket had no Portulacaria afra remaining, but had been invaded by alien species Pteronia incana, the grasses Themeda triandra and Pancium maximum, and the herbs Chrysocoma ciliate, Crassula mesembryanthoides, Senecio linifolius and Cyphia sylvatica.

Grasslands had a predominance of Cynodon dactylon grasses, some Pancium maximum and most of the herbs found in the degraded thicket.

Lamprotornis

The reserve is renowned for its truly spectacular topography and boasts five of South Africa’s seven biomes. It is particularly diverse and picturesque reserve and has the Bushman’s river running throughout it. The reserve has an abundant variety of wildlife including the big 5 (African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard and the rhinoceros) and over 250 species of birdlife, thereby offering dynamic and abundant wildlife experiences on game drives, night drives, walking safari’s and boat cruises.

The Amakhala Conservation Centre

Largely funded through bed levies from the commercial lodges and donations. The centre is driven on three main objectives: the first being the promotion of environmental awareness and imparting knowledge of the environment, economic and cultural importance of wildlife, wild areas and the functioning of natural ecosystems. The second objective is aiming to identify and support research projects that provide ecological and social information relevant to the management of the reserve and to wildlife conservation in general. Lastly, to encourage and advise on various conservation projects which will ensure the conservation of biodiversity and functioning of ecological systems.

Following the successful re-introduction of different species onto the game reserve, the conservation centre continues to investigate the reintroduction of other species such as the cape vulture. One of the reserves largest challenges in re-introducing the original flora and fauna species to the area.

The Amakhala Conservation Centre offers vocational training to improve wildlife management and tourism skills. Since August 2003 students from local schools have been able to discover the wonders of nature on day outings. The centre also offers international students with the opportunity to assist with the development of the centre and to participate in its various projects.

The centre is currently directed by Dr. Jennifer Gush (resident zoologist) who oversees conservation centre activities.

Example of current projects include: elephant impact studies, grass management, elephant and hyena monitoring, and a base-line study of the Bushman’s river.

The centre also offers a programme suitable for persons of all ages, looking for something different as part of a gap year or following a life change. This opportunity allows people to contribute to the conservation, make a difference, and to return to nature.

Amakhala Game Reserve is specifically involved in rhinoceros and cheetah conservation, the provision of a safe environment for all animals whether endangered or not, and their ability to live and breed. This is how they shape their contribution to wildlife contribution.

Sustainable Tourism

Amakhala Game reserve creates a sustainable tourism environment. They focus on providing the general public with a lifetime experience, while at the same time attempting to make as low an impact on the environment and local culture as possible. The aim of this is to provide a positive experience for local people, tourism companies and tourists themselves, and to educate the young about conservation. Sustainable tourism is an adopted practice in successful ecotourism.

Ecotourism

Ostrich

Ecotourism, as defined by the World Conservation Union is “Environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (an accompanying cultural features, both past and present) that promote conservation, have a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples”. This is something Amakhala Game Reserve believes in, and works hard to maintain.

The Amakhala Foundation

The Amakhala Foundation was launched in 2009. The foundation is committed to the building of strong communities, families and individuals within the rural and conservation context where Amakhala Game Reserve is located.

The focus is education and training, HIV/Aids awareness and support, Amakhala craft centre and income generation, and Amakhala conservation centre.

A few of their initiatives include, a preschool that was established as one of Amakhala’s successful properties. HIV/Aids awareness days regularly held on the reserve. A beaded bracelet bursary program where young women get together weekly and hold a craft workshop to make beaded bracelets. The workshop’s generated income helps to alleviate the poverty in their lives.

Lodges, Camps and Tented Camps

Amakhala Game Reserve is composed of 11 individually run lodges/camps that all work together under the same umbrella known as “Amakhala Game Reserve”.

Bukela Game Lodge

“Romantic and secluded in a hidden valley”.

This lodge was one of the first introduced lodges to Amakhala Game Reserve. The owners love for wildlife and desire to undo some of the damage from man’s heavy handed influence on the natural South African surroundings, led to the acquisition of a large portion of the Amakhala Game Reserve.

The intimate four-suite and two-tent lodge offers an exclusive game viewing experience, which combined with luxurious and secluded accommodation, creates a remarkable, private retreat in which to regenerate mind and body.

Facilities include: airport shuttle, laundry, indoor fireplace, satellite TV, braai/barbecue area and swimming pool.

It is rated five stars, by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa.

Leeuwenbosch Country House

“Where wildlife and history mingle”.

Leeuwenbosch enables the restoration of South African pride, and assists all members of the community to realize their potential by opening more doors of opportunity.

Gracious, colonial country house set amidst beautiful indigenous gardens, offering a family safari experience steeped in settler history.

The country house was built in 1908 and offers five spacious en-suite bedrooms, which are layered with a collection of historical images, documents, and furniture dating back to the 1800s

Facilities include: laundry, swimming pool and credit card facilities.

Carnarvon Dale Lodge

“Settler hospitality perfect for quiet relaxation and super game viewing”.

Situated in the Frontier country, Carnarvon Dale is an 1857 family farm on the banks of the Bushman’s River. The lodge was once a historic settler farmhouse that provided lodging for travelers, whose journeys were halted by the flooded river, until it was safe again for them to cross. Now-a-days, the lodge consists of the settler farmhouse (bottom house), and an elegantly restored early Edwardian cottage (top house) with en-suite serviced bedrooms and private lounge meeting areas. Family suites are available upon request.

Facilities include: airport shuttle, swimming pool, Wi-Fi, credit card facilities and parking on premises.

Rated 3 stars by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa.

Bush Lodge

“Rustic luxury tented bush camp”.

Positioned at the top end of an open valley at the Amakhala Game Reserve. Offers en-suite, tented and thatched suited overlooking a wildlife watering point with big sky views. Each suite is equipped with private viewing decks and intimate plunge pools.

The main lodge provides splendid lounge areas, and an expansive viewing deck with magnificent views of game-filled plains.

The lodge offers twice-daily game viewing trips by open 4X4 safari vehicles, from professionally trained guides.

Facilities include: laundry, indoor fireplace, braai/barbecue area, swimming pool, Wi-Fi, credit card facilities and parking on premises.

Rated 5 stars by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa.

Reed Valley Inn

“Steeped in history”.

This is a member of the heritage collection of Amakhala Game Reserve. The building is said to have been built in 1806. Throughout time, many farming enterprises such as cattle, sheep, ostriches, crocodiles, pineapples and dairy have had success and failure in this area. It is situated in the farmyard and consists of historic en-suite country rooms, each with separate entrances onto private patios. These rooms once provided rest and safe haven for the ‘mail wagon travellers’.

Facilities include: indoor fireplace and a swimming pool.

It is rated four stars by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa.

Safari Lodge

“With signature stone-capped roof tops”.

Intimate, thatched lodge with unique, air conditioned safari huts and signature stone capped roof tops. The lodge offers all the comforts of a luxury safari lodge and is an undisturbed retreat where one can regenerate their soul and tune into the sounds of nature. Safari huts and lounge areas open up to views of the waterhole where monkeys come to play and antelope and zebra to quench their thirst.

Facilities include a swimming pool.

It is ranked five stars by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa.

HillsNek Safari Camp

Situated on the banks of the Bushman’s river and boasts breathtaking views of the African plains and beautiful natural surroundings. The camp consists of a main lodge and four tens; the tents are elevated and are linked to the lodge by wooden walkways. They include en-suite bathrooms and outdoor showers. The camp offers morning game drives which stretch over 18,000 acres of biomes.

Facilities include: swimming pool, restaurant and parking on premises.

It is ranked five stars by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa.

Woodbury Lodge

“Set above the Bushman’s River valley”.

Spectacularly set against a cliff above the Bushman’s river valley. It offers an intimate and tranquil experience of the Eastern Cape riverine bushveld at its best. All rooms have private decks with a view over the plains. A range of game viewing and other activities such as the river cruise and bush walks are on offer, or one can just recline around the communal swimming pool and enjoy the sun while the birds keep them company.

Facilities include: airport shuffle, laundry, indoor fireplace, a swimming pool and credit card facilities.

It is rated four stars by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa.

Woodbury Tented Camp

“Hear the bush breathe”.

The camp first began in 2002 as a small, rather unusual lodge concept using 19th century covered wagons as bedrooms. But by 2004 the camp had been revamped and reborn. The original six tents had grown to ten tents and a pool was added for a more luxurious experience. Ten, large, comfortable en-suite tents on raised bases with private patios provide the seclusion, tranquility and intimacy with the bush that you would expect on a visit to Amakhala Game Reserve.

Facilities include: laundry, gift shop, and a swimming pool.

It is rated three stars by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa.

Quatermain’s 1920’s Safari Camp

Modelled on the heyday of exploration, that golden era when adventure lay around every corner. The intimate six bed tented camp offers the opportunity to experience Africa under the canvas, with three 1900’s style tents fitted out with military campaign style furnishings. “At Quatermains Camp we will do our very best to make sure that you are enveloped by the natural world and that you will return home refreshed and with a new sense of wonder and understanding of the wildlife around us”.

Facilities include: airport shuttle, indoor fireplace, braai/barbeque area, and credit card facilities.

Hlosi Game Lodge

“Family friendly Safari in Eastern Cape Game Reserve”.

One of the first lodges to join the Amakhala portfolio. Offering warm hospitality, luxurious accommodations and a Big 5 game experience. The lodge is set in a wide grassland valley, with expansive views and great game viewing opportunities form the comfort of one’s own sweet. The lodge consists of four luxury double suites, two superbly finished family suites, four luxury safari tents as well as four luxury family safari tents. Each suite features a sitting area, and private veranda.

Facilities include: airport shuffle, laundry, indoor fireplace, braai/barbecue area, and a swimming pool.

It is ranked four stars by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa.

Volunteering

Programs provided for individuals who are looking for something different as part of their gap year, or are looking for something new. Volunteers help contribute to Amakhala’s conservation initiative, and experience once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Programs can include: game captures, counts and monitoring, animal tracking using telemetry, wildlife identification, territorial ranges and feeding ranges, lion health and breeding monitoring, erosion control/road maintenance, wetland rehabilitation, fence patrol and maintenance, and lots more.

The Alexandria Dunefields

Alexandria is a small farming town in the Eastern Cape of South Africa and is situated 100 km North East of Port Elizabeth on the way to Bushman’s River Mouth, Kenton-on-Sea and Port Alfred. Alexandria is part of the Ndlambe Local Municipality in the Sarah Baartman District Municipality of the Eastern Cape.

It might have been established by the Dutch colonial government in the late 18th century, but was named Alexandria in 1856 after Reverend Alexander Smith. It has a warm temperate climate and is unusual in southern Africa in having no distinct dry or wet season, with rain received throughout the year.

Alexandria is one of the most important chicory producing areas in South Africa and is also known for pineapple production and dairy farming. The Alexandria area also includes the Alexandria State Forest, known as Langebos to the locals, which is a narrow stretch of pristine indigenous forest bordering the Alexandria dune field, one of the largest active dune fields in the world. The Woody Cape Nature Reserve, which stretches from the Sundays River mouth to the Bushman’s River mouth and includes the dune field and the indigenous forest, has been incorporated into the Addo Elephant National Park.